Brexit: May hopes UK will leave ‘well before’ 31 October deadline

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LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May has said she hopes the UK will leave the EU well before the new 31 October Brexit deadline. She told MPs there was no reason the UK could not leave in a matter of weeks once MPs backed an agreement, which they have so far rejected three times.

She signalled she hoped to get Labour backing for any new customs proposal before putting it to Parliament again. She said their aims were “very similar” and “sometimes people use different terms to mean the same thing”.

Labour wants the PM to sign up to the idea of a customs union with the EU, something she has adamantly opposed up to now, and some have suggested she is moving in their direction. Most Conservative MPs have said they would not support the move, saying it would mean the UK would not have an independent trade policy.

Mrs May chose to open talks with Jeremy Corbyn after Parliament rejected the withdrawal agreement she has negotiated with the EU a third time late last month.

After this defeat, the EU extended the deadline for the UK’s departure – originally set for 29 March – until 31 October.

Mrs May told MPs she hoped the extension would be “terminable” well before this date and the UK would find itself outside the EU “as soon as possible”.

Appearing before the Liaison Committee of senior MPs, she said the choice facing Parliament was the same as when it last rejected her agreement. MPs could opt to agree a deal and leave in an orderly fashion, to leave without a deal, hold another referendum, or to stay in the EU by revoking Article 50 – only the first of which she found “acceptable”.

She said she was “convinced” that reaching out to Labour to try and build a majority for any deal was the right thing to do. If no agreement was reached, she said the government would stand by its commitment to give MPs the chance to vote on a series of options, with ministers abiding by the outcome.